Dedicated leilui nishmat Charles Botton, Shalom ben Zahra, A’H,
by his wife, children & grandchildren.
At the end of last week’s parasha, after Pharaoh reluctantly sent B’nei Yisrael out of Egypt, Moshe instructed the people, “And it shall be when your son will ask you at some future time, ‘What is this?’ You shall say to him, ‘With a strong hand Hashem removed us from Egypt from the house of bondage.’ (13:14)” For the last 3,000 years, every mitzvah we do and every holiday we celebrate serves as a reminder of Hashem saving us from Pharaoh’s grip and redeeming us from slavery with a strong hand!
Every day we read in the Shema, “Ani Hashem Elokechem asher hotzeti etchem me’eretz Mitzrayim leheyot lachem le’Elokim—I am Hashem, your G-d who redeemed you from the land of Egypt to be your G-d.” This text reminds us that we must pass the story of our redemption from generation to generation.
The Waters of Israel
This parasha discusses the parting of the Red Sea. There is an interesting feature about Israel’s bodies of water. The Sea of Galilee—also called the Kineret—and the Dead Sea are two seas, or rather lakes, that could not be more different. The Kineret is teeming with life. It is home to 24 species of fish, some of which are not found anywhere else in the world. Its shores have many birds and are lush with vegetation. The Dead Sea, on the other hand, contains no life at all; it’s extremely salty, to the point where it’s toxic and bitter. Yet both are fed from the same source, the Jordan River.
How could two bodies of water that are fed from a single source be so different? The Sea of Galilee receives water from one end and gives out water from the other, while the Dead Sea takes water, but has no outlet. Life is all about give-and-take. If a person just constantly takes but does not give to anyone, that person withers into something salty and bitter. Yet if one concentrates on not only receiving, but also giving, he will be full of life!
A Leap of Faith
As B’nei Yisrael left Egypt, Hashem sent them on a detour to bypass the land of the Philistines. This led them to the shores of the Yam Suf. When they realized that Pharaoh’s army was pursuing them and they were trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army, they began to lose faith that Hashem would not save them again.
They cried out to Hashem, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us to die in the desert?” Hashem responded to Moshe, “Ma tizak Elai — Why do you cry out to Me?” The Ohr Hachaim asks, “Who should they cry out to, if not to Hashem?”
Hashem instructed Moshe, “Speak to B’nei Yisrael and tell them to move forward!” The Ohr Hachaim explains that sometimes tefillah is not enough and we need to take a leap of faith to show our emunah in Hashem! According to the midrash, Nachshon ben Aminadav, a prince of the tribe of Judah, was the first one to take that leap of faith and literally jumped into the Yam Suf.
Rabbenu Bachiya explains that the water didn’t split all at once, and therefore they were not able to see across to the other side. Rather, there was a wall of water in front of them, but with each step that they took, the sea split a bit more. Similarly, we move forward step by step, and as we go through the trials and tribulations of our lives, we overcome our challenges one at a time. It’s only much later in our lives that we can look back and see with clarity how our lives progressed and how we have grown to the point where we are today. We must constantly have emunah and bitachon that Hashem will be there for us and guide us through our lives — if we continue to follow in the derech of Hashem — even though we can’t possibly see what lies ahead of us.
Hashem says to us, “ma tizak Elai—why are you crying out to Me?” Just take that leap of faith and have complete confidence that I am always with you! The splitting of the sea has been compared to shidduchim and parnasah—livelihood. Those things are as difficult as Keriyat Yam Suf – Splitting of the Sea but in retrospect, they seem so obvious and simple!
“And Moshe said, ‘Eat it today, for today is Shabbat for Hashem, you will not find it (the mann) in the field’ (16:25).” Rashi elaborates: The Jews went out every morning to find and gather mann for their daily consumption needs. They woke up Shabbat morning and asked Moshe whether they should go out to the fields and look for mann, like they had been doing every other day that week. Moshe told them not to go out, but rather to eat what they already had.
Rav Yaakov comments that the question posed to Moshe was whether they should go out to the fields that day or not. The logical answer to that question was “No, don’t go out today. There is no mann in the fields today.” And yet, his answer was “Eat what you have.” Why did Moshe give that answer to the question?
Rav Yaakov answers that they thought that if they did not go out and collect another day’s worth of mann, they wouldn’t have had enough to eat the next day. The mann hadn’t been falling for forty years at this point. This was the first week of the mann phenomenon. If it fell on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and then on Shabbat there was no mann, what would they eat on Sunday? In their minds they were fearful. If we eat the mann from yesterday’s gathering, what will we have on Sunday? They did not know.
If one does not know what his family is going to eat on Sunday, he may be inclined to hold back from eating what he has on Shabbat. Moshe Rabbenu corrected them: “Eat what you have!” The lesson of Shabbat is that Ribono shel Olam provides parnasa—livelihood. Therefore, observe Shabbat and keep its halachot. Eat what you want to eat on Shabbat even if you do not know where tomorrow’s meal will be coming from and keep the faith that Hashem will provide.
This was a very real and difficult nisayon—test for Jews living in America in the early part of the twentieth century. There was a time in America when if someone did not come to work on Saturday, he did not come to work on Monday. Rav Yaakov was addressing that very classic situation. People fretted, “If I do not work on Saturday, then how am I going to eat?” The importance of Shabbat is to keep it with emunah that Hashem is the source of our livelihood. That is what Moshe wanted to emphasize to them.
One Last Hug
In the latest Gaza War, there was a woman who had just lost her husband to a car accident, and about a month after her husband died her son got called into battle in Gaza. She didn't want her son to go. She just lost her husband, but the Israeli Army called, and she believed he had to go serve.
About a week into a battle, the IDF called her in the middle of the night to notify her that her son was tragically killed. She was devastated, heartbroken. Her faith was tested, and she locked herself in her apartment to mourn. Her daughter kept visiting with her grandchildren, but the woman would not let them in or leave her apartment. She was so steeped in grief from losing her husband and son.
Two months later one of her friends told her that a big Rabbi was coming to town and to come to his class. The woman responded, “I'm not listening to rabbis; I'm not doing anything. I'm living my life in this house with the lights off forever.” Her friend finally got her to go to the class, and the subject was emunah.
When the woman returned home, she looked up to the heavens and said, “G-d, you took my husband and my son. I understand that he died for you, fighting for your nation, and I'm okay with that. But I want to know that my Dvir is okay. I want to give my Dvir one last hug. You give me that, and I’ll be okay.”
Two weeks later, her daughter called her to invite her to a big Tu Bishvat party in her neighborhood. There was a big celebration in the park before the holiday. It was a beautiful day, there were fruits and nuts and tons of children running around and playing. The woman was sitting and watching her grandchildren play, and a random two-year-old boy ran up to her and started hanging on her leg.
She smiled at him, and his frazzled mom came over to try to pull the boy away, but the kid wouldn’t budge. The woman looked at the mom and said, “It’s okay, I used to be a Morah and I’m a kid magnet!” She started to play with him a little. The boy’s poor mom looked like she just couldn’t get it together. She had a baby in her baby carrier who was screaming, crying, and snotty, while her two-year-old was attacking some stranger’s leg. She looked extremely overwhelmed.
The woman said, “Give me the baby, and you can take your son to get a toy or a piece of fruit. The mom looked so relieved. The minute she handed her the crying baby, the baby stopped and started cooing at this lady. The woman was entranced with this baby and asked the mother, “What’s his name?”
“His name’s Dvir.” Shocked that he shared the name with her late son, the woman said to the mom, “What an interesting name. What made you choose it?” The mom began to tell a story. “When I was pregnant with him a few months ago, the doctor called with very bad test results. They weren’t sure if he would survive the pregnancy, and if he did, they said he’d be born with terrible complications, living his life in and out of hospitals. I was devastated. so broken. I prayed to Hashem that this was all a huge mistake, that he be born healthy.”
“When I got home that night, I saw on the television that there was a casualty in the war, a soldier named Dvir. And I promised Hashem that if this baby comes out healthy, I will name him in the memory of the fallen soldier, who passed fighting for our people.” And the woman looked into the baby’s eyes, and she gave her Dvir one last hug.
May we all remember to give to others like the Sea of Galilee. May we have emunah in Hashem that He’s always with us throughout our lives, each step of the way, even though we may not yet be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. May we also emulate Nachshon ben Aminadav by having the courage to take that leap of faith! May we cherish Shabbat and keep the faith that Hashem always provides for us!
Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey
What leaps of faith have we taken in life, and what was the outcome?
Eliyahu Ben Rachel
Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Avraham Ben Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah
Esther Bat Sarah
Avraham Ben Mazal
Shulamit Bat Helaina
Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Rahamim Ben Mazal
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther
Rafael Ben Miriam
Ovadia Ben Esther
Rav Haim Ben Rivka
Moshe Ben Mazal
Moshe Ben Yael
Yitzchak Ben Adele
Avraham Ben Mazal
Meir Ben Latifa
Chanah Bat Esther
Yaakov Ben Rachel
Malka Bat Garaz
Moshe Ben Garaz
Avraham Ben Kami
Yaakov Ben Leah
Mordechai Ben Rachel
Chacham Shaul Rachamim Ben Mazal
Natan Ben Rachel
Saadia Ben Miriam
Eliyah Ben Latifa Simhon
Margalit Bat Mazal
Ovadia Haim Ben Malaky
Rabbi Aharon Chaim Ben Ruchama
Yehoshua Ben Batsheva
Luratte Bat Masouda
Esther Bat Menucha
Uri Ben Rahel
Rivka Bat Dona
Shalom Ben Zahra
Rachel Bat Devorah
Shella Rachel Bat Sarah
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